Pearls for the Journey: Take a Sabbath
By Rev. Lori Bievenour*
Colleagues told me that the Pension Boards-United Church of Christ CREDO (PBUCC CREDO) Seminar was by far, the best continuing education/retreat/counseling/professional development/self-care that they had ever received. No one really had words for the experience and that seemed like a good thing.
I knew I needed to refocus as my ministry continued in a new way. (After 11 years serving as associate of a congregation, I was called to be the senior pastor in the same congregation.) I could sense a need for spiritual grounding and this seemed like a good fit. It was also a pivotal time in my life. I gave birth to my baby eight months prior to the week-long Seminar.
During PBUCC CREDO, I was shocked to learn how few of my colleagues had a regular Sabbath day and how few took all of their vacation. I left PBUCC CREDO realizing how much of a gift our congregation gives its pastors. We are supported with a congregational coach, spiritual direction, and Sabbath days that are not only honored but expected.
We All Need Rest
I see my colleagues giving in to the myth that ministry is supposed to be exhausting and that taking a Sabbath isn't possible for the health of the congregation. It's just plainly not true. We all need rest, and though we say it to others, we don't practice what we preach. There is no way to sustain vital ministry if we don't wake up to this reality. We are not super-humans, and we shouldn't be covering up our need for rest and renewal. Honestly, I believe this is one of the biggest challenges facing congregations, and it's one of the many reasons that people leave ministry after only a few years. PBUCC CREDO affirmed this - big time.
After hearing me gloss over an important life change, Day McCallister, the Vocational Faculty and a UCC pastor herself, challenged me to think about the birth process that I had just been through with our child. It was unique (as they all are), and I had not yet grasped the intensity of it. The turning point came when Day suggested that I was also birthing something with our congregation - a congregation quite familiar to me but also entirely new to me. I needed the affirmation, the challenge, and the gentle care that Day provided to me on that day, and I have carried it with me since. I cried. I went to the beach and walked. I listened to the ocean and to my heart, and clichéd as it might sound, I was changed. When I returned home, our congregation could tell that something was different. Now, nearly a year and a half later, I am still working with Day's challenge to me, but I am embracing it in a more powerful way.
My soul was in need, and I barely recognized it. PBUCC CREDO gave me permission to claim who I am as a person and a pastor... in that order... and that continues to be a game-changer in my daily life.
About PBUCC CREDO
PBUCC CREDO is a holistic wellness benefit that offers clergy space and resources to examine significant areas of their lives and discern prayerfully the future direction of their vocation as they respond to God’s call in a lifelong process of practice and transformation.
The CREDO experience is anchored in a week-long Seminar and includes a pre-Seminar assessment and post-Seminar resources so that participants can deepen their commitment to lifelong wellness. Learn more about this program here http://bit.ly/PB_CREDO.
*The Rev. Lori Bievenour is Senior Pastor of St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Carmel, Indiana.